SPORTS SHOES

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					SPORTS SHOES




INTRODUCTION

Since time immemorial, shoes have protected feet against hazardous surfaces and
the cold. Over the years, they have also become fashion accessories and indicators
of group membership and social status.

Since the 1970s, even athletic footwear has succumbed to fashion and aesthetics, as
designers have tried to respond to growing consumer demand for stylish products.
The past 20 years alone have brought about an explosion in technological
developments. Hoping or claiming to reduce the risk of injury, manufacturers have
designed and incorporated increasingly complex cushioning, support and stability
features into sports shoes. These technologies, combined with eye-catching designs,
achieved one essential goal: to sell shoes.
SPORTS SHOES




Despite the millions of dollars that multinationals invest every year in the promotion of
new, so-called “protective” technologies, there have been very few published studies
and no solid evidence to back up these technological advances. The cushioning of
running shoes, for example, has no impact whatsoever on the skeletal system,
despite clever attempts by manufacturers to incorporate such features into
increasingly elaborate products (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate, Polyurethane, Gel, Air,
Adiprene, Wave System, Shox, etc.). Not only has cushioning never been shown to
prevent injury, but it has also been known to disrupt the natural dynamics and
proprioceptive mechanisms of the foot. Thus, in their attempts to reduce injury, shoe
manufacturers have made sports shoes increasingly heavier, bulkier and pricier.

Some researchers today believe that these changes may even be responsible for
certain pathologies such as hallux valgus (bunions) and Achilles tendinitis, which are
much less frequent in barefoot populations. In short, despite the modern
technological advances and complex manufacturing processes that go into sports
shoes, athletes keep getting injured. Given these observations, it is essential that we
ask whether the claims made by those who promote such lucrative technologies
(shoe manufacturers, sports magazines, retailers, etc.) really are accurate.


1. CHOOSING SPORTS SHOES

There is a considerable lack of consensus and scientific evidence concerning which
criteria a professional should use to recommend a given type of sports shoe.
Nevertheless, choosing athletic footwear should be based on two basic principles:

1) The right fit
   The size, width and shape of the shoe should fit the shape of the foot, without
   causing pressure points or deforming the toes. The shoe should feel comfortable
   as soon as you put it on.

2) Simplicity
   The shoe should interfere as little as possible with the natural protective
   biomechanics of the foot. (For example, shoe cushioning increases instability, heel
   height increases the risk of ankle sprain and alters running biomechanics, wide
   soles disrupt pronotation dynamics).

   Other sport-specific criteria may also serve as a guide for choosing appropriate
   sports shoes:
SPORTS SHOES




 Grip
 The shoe should provide adequate grip. The design and type of material used in
 the outsole of a shoe or the addition of spikes under the shoe can maximize grip
 depending on the surface. For example, certain types of rubber outsoles may
 provide better grip on certain gym surfaces. The same applies to the spike length
 and type of outdoor soccer shoes and the type of field; the type of spikes on
 sprinting shoes and the type of track; the type of crampons on hiking boots and
 the type of surface conditions.

 Stability and sports involving lateral movements
 The shoe should adequately support the foot in order to provide lateral stability to
 the ankle and the foot in sports that involve a lot of quick lateral movements (e.g.
 soccer, basketball, tennis, physical fitness training).

 Many strategies are used to provide stability, including straps on the instep or the
 upper part of the shoe, lateral reinforcements of the quarter (high cuts), optimal
 lacing systems, wider soles or heel stiffeners. The most important criteria,
 however, is the height of the sole, which should be as low as possible to decrease
 the lever effect.

 Lightness and endurance sports
 The weight of a shoe has an important effect on oxygen consumption. Several
 studies on runners have shown that a 1% increase in shoe weight can cause a 3%
 increase in oxygen consumption. In other words, for all sports where performance
 is influenced by an “endurance” factor, i.e. sports such as running, soccer, boxing
 or basketball, shoes must be lightweight in order to reduce cardiovascular
 requirements and consequently improve physiological performance.

 Flexibility and certain specific sports
 A flexible shoe that does not interfere with the foot’s natural dynamics is
 recommended for long-distance running, while a shoe with a very rigid sole may
 improve performance in sprinting and jumping, according to certain authors.
 Shoes for dancing, rock-climbing or gymnastics should be flexible enough to allow
 certain specific dynamics necessary for performance.

 Anti-pronation features and running shoes
 Despite the fact that there is no clear scientific evidence to support their
 effectiveness, anti-pronation features (the denser and darker-coloured section of
 the midsole) are incorporated into running shoes in an attempt to reduce
 overpronation.
SPORTS SHOES




  Thus, runners and walkers whose arches fall abnormally when their feet hit the
  ground could benefit from purchasing shoes with anti-pronation features.

  Depending on the requirements of a sport or activity, certain secondary criteria
  may also influence the choice of shoe. Breathability of the sole and shoe upper
  may prove useful in hot weather as it helps reduce perspiration; a waterproof
  upper may be useful in hiking shoes and in rainy or damp conditions; light
  reflectors on running shoes will make a runner visible at night; the rigidity and
  snugness of a downhill ski boot support the ankle and foot, allowing immediate
  and optimal control of skis; padding in cross-country ski boots keeps feet warm in
  cold weather, etc.


2. SPECIAL SHOES AND NEW TECNOLOGIES

  Based on the assumption that the foot has what it takes to protect itself against
  injury and that the dynamics of bare feet are the benchmark of proper walking and
  running biomechanics, an impressive number of new shoes have appeared on the
  market in response to this paradox (e.g. Biom, Five Fingers Vibram, Nike Free,
  MBT Shoes, Newton Shoes).

  Even though the design of these shoes is based on interesting theories, it is
  nevertheless important to critically assess these new trends and marketing
  influences. It is also important to proceed gradually when changing from one type
  of shoe to another, particularly if the new shoe involves a significant change in
  biomechanics (such as a substantial difference in the thickness of the sole).


3. SPECIFIC POPULATIONS

  Diabetics suffering from peripheral neuropathies (loss of sensitivity in the
  extremities) should pay particular attention to foot comfort. The fit and comfort of
  their sports shoes is of the utmost importance since diabetics are advised to
  minimize the risk of skin lesions caused by irritation. Cushioning and foot orthoses
  could prove essential features in this regard.
SPORTS SHOES




1.   Shop for shoes at the end of the day, after you’ve been active (your feet will be
     at their widest, since they swell slightly with activity).
2.   Shop in a store that offers a wide range of shoes and choose a shoe based on
     the type of sport and its requirements.
3.   Try on both shoes inside the store; wear sports socks and lace the shoes up
     properly.
4.   Do a few dynamic moves such as running and jumping.
5.   Make sure the shoes feel comfortable as soon as you put them on (good fit, no
     pressure points, heel doesn’t slip, etc.).
6.   Leave one centimetre of space between the toes and the end of the shoe (you
     should be able to wiggle your toes freely inside the shoe, except in certain types
     of shoes such as dancing or hiking shoes).
7.   The price of a shoe is not an indication of quality and definitely not one of
     protection against injury.
8.   Sports shoes have a limited lifespan. However, contrary to popular belief, it is
     not the shoes’ cushioning that should be monitored but rather the amount of
     wear and any deformations that could increase the risk of injury.
9.   Your weight should not determine the size or cushioning of your shoes, only the
     quality of the shoes’ uppers, which should be a little sturdier.
10. Break in your shoes gradually to give your body time to adjust to the new
     biomechanics.

The protective qualities of footwear have always been prized. Since the beginning of
time, leather sufficed to shield us against sharp rocks, cold and snow. With the
advent of new manufacturing technologies and the discovery of new materials,
engineers, influenced by marketing departments, have gotten carried away with new
designs. In the last 20 years alone, sports shoes have evolved as much as they had
in the previous 4000. However, despite all the technological advances, we now
realize that choosing good sports shoes should depend on two simple criteria:
comfort and simplicity.
SPORTS SHOES




Written by: Blaise Dubois, B.Sc. P.T. RCAMT, Sports physiotherapy, Conseil de
médecine du sport du Québec (CMSQ)




CONTACT US

Please contact us if you would like more information or copies of our publications.


By mail:        Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport
                Direction de la promotion de la sécurité
                100, rue Laviolette, bureau 306
                Trois-Rivières (Québec) G9A 5S9

By telephone:   819-371-6033 or 1-800-567-7902
By fax:         819-371-6992

By e-mail:      promotionsecurite@mels.gouv.qc.ca

Web site:       www.mels.gouv.qc.ca

				
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